Renovation Posted Notices – the Good and the Ugly

Just before we departed for a Memorial Day weekend get away, we came home to this notice on our front door.

a Stop Work Order

Yes, it is a stop work order. Interestingly, it is posted on our front door, and all the workers enter on the side of the property without any opportunity to see the front door.  Perhaps that is why the trades are still working.

We send a picture of it to our contractor.  Gage replies, “I will take care of it.”  A few hours later, we ask for an update.  Gage replies, “I will take care of it.”  We depart for our Memorial Day get away.  During our trip, we ask Gage to have the notice removed as soon as possible.  We are a bit embarrassed to have it there. When we return in a few days, it is removed.  To this day, that’s all we know about it.

Then there are the happy notices, the ones we were excited to receive.  Last week, our electrical rough in passed inspection.

b elect

Today, the plumbing rough in passed inspection.

b plumbing

Those things mean we can proceed. The plumbing work can continue; the new walls can soon be built.

Demo in Memphis

DumpsterApril 16 came and we were ready for our Peabody house (midtown, Memphis, Tennessee) renovations to begin.  The happy news is that the demo crew did show up on April 16 and they went to town!  The bad news is that the dumpster did not show up until three days later.  Hubby and I look at each other and say, “Only in Memphis.”

We had emptied out the entire first floor of our home, including the kitchen, laundry room, pantry, full bathroom, dining room, sitting room, and most of the pool table and living rooms.  The pool table will remain until it is time to refinish the hardwood floors near the very end of the project, and we set up a temporary kitchen in the part of the main floor that will remain largely untouched.

The fridge is relocated to the pool table room (would be the formal dining room for almost anyone else) and its top serves as our pantry.a Pool Table and Fridge Our 5-foot square table has been moved to the front of the living room and will serve as our temporary kitchen.a Temp KitchenThe couch and TV remain in the living room, though scrunched toward the front of the house. We will spend most of our time out on our side porch, under fans. b Side Porch In June we added an outside TV to enhance our enjoyment of this outside space.b outside tv

Our son-in-law is wagering how long it will last before someone steals it.

Here is a look at demo week one.  The kitchen is emptied.Demo day 1 kitchen  The pantry is demolished.Demo day 1 pantry  The bathroom is quick to follow.  Hubby is standing in the bathroom just below.  Note the yellow tile floor in the picture below.  It was under two hardwood floors in the old kitchen area.  By the time we remove all the floors, we will gain several inches of ceiling height!Day one demo  Eventually, this is how the sitting room and the part of the living room that will be absorbed into the family room look.a Sitting room and living room demoed

Meantime, we have a hot mess.

A mess

There is definitely no turning back now.

Renovation in Memphis, Tennessee



2781fc42f6efa5321e4b83500777b3f3l-m0xd-w1020_h770_q80We purchased a 100+-year-old house in Memphis, Tennessee, last fall.  Before we even knew for sure that it would be ours, we began discussing the renovations we would require in order to make it into the home we would enjoy living in for the next decade or so.

Nearly 20 years ago, in Oregon, we completed a major remodel of our family home.  We moved into an apartment for that project, mostly because we had young children and it involved tearing off the roof structure and dismantling the heating system in early spring.  Our youngest turned one and started walking in that apartment, and our oldest started high school (after being homeschooled for several years) while our family lived there.


08This is the open floor plan 05and kitchen that we created in our Oregon remodel.  We relied heavily on the help of an interior designer at that time, and the space successfully stood the test of time.  There were many things we loved about our Oregon creation and the open floor plan was the most important of all.  Many of my memories from the years that we raised our five kiddos in that house took place in that open space, from the first hours with new kittens and later new puppies, sugar cookie making parties with a dozen pre-teen and teen aged swimmers, family dinners around the island, multiple cooks at one time claiming space to execute their portion of a large meal, gatherings for holidays, birthdays, graduations, Super Bowls, Duck football games, and the last hurrah (though we didn’t know it at the time) a Thanksgiving gathering for 30 in 2016.imagejpeg_0-1

As we began interviewing contractors for our Memphis renovation, after our general description of the goal (an open floor plan) more than one of them said, “Why did you buy this house?”  We love a lot about this grand old house, including the features that proudly declare, “I am 100+ years old!”  Our inspector explained that this house, our Peabody house, has many features that Memphians, especially Midtown dwelling Memphians lovingly refer to as, “Midtown Charm.”  That would include things like sloping floors, creaking floors, draftiness in winter, wood windows that are painted and caulked shut, warped doors that won’t completely close or latch, lead pipes, probably lead paint, knob and tube wiring, to go along with hundreds of huge mature trees (many of them flowering), gorgeous woodwork, limestone exteriors, and delightful front porches.

We chose this Peabody house to be our Memphis home because it was move-in ready for us and for our intended AirBnB guests.  We arrived in mid October 2017 and by mid November we had three AirBnB listings on this property up and running.  Main 7The Pool House is our back house with a separate entrance and gated parking for up to four guests, and we offer two bedrooms in the main house, each with its own bathroom, for up to two guests each.

Our Peabody house proved perfect for our AirBnB vision, but we quickly realized that we abhorred the kitchen space.  Main 12Our first guests were our oldest daughter and her family plus my mom and her husband. It was fall and that means college football season.  We love college football season.  We love hosting gatherings that include good food, friends and family, conversation, and the game on TV.  In an open floor plan, all of these things can occur simultaneously, but in the Peabody house, the kitchen is a galley with no seating space for anyone who wants to keep the cook company, and no access to the other areas of the house where conversation and the game are happening.  There is also not adequate space for multiple cooks, and we like lots of cooks at one time. The renovation that had seemed like a good idea was suddenly an imperative.  We hated entertaining in this space.  We needed to recreate the open space we had lived in for 20 years in Oregon.  We were not willing to live in our Peabody house without recreating that space.

We had a general idea of how to get the open concept at Peabody.  It is a traditional foursquare house with the stairway to the second floor smack dab in the center of the house.  Main 8You enter the house and see the stairway right in front of you; it goes up to a landing where a back stairway from the back of the house meets at the landing and then the stairs continue to the second floor.  We figured we could eliminate the part of the stairway that came up from the back part of the main floor, appropriate about one third of the living room, blow out the sitting room walls Main 11and all the walls that surrounded the kitchen, eating area, pantry and full bath on the main floor, thereby creating enough space for a new kitchen, large kitchen island, and a family room (hearth room per the lingo here).

One of the other things we loved about our Oregon space was the large fireplace with a hearth for sitting or sleeping on, and a vent-less gas log set that warmed the whole space. We froze our first winter in Memphis when there were many days at a time with the lows in the teens and single digits and the highs in the low 20’s. These temperatures were very difficult to battle in our drafty old house.  Gone were the days when we could turn the heat off at night; if we did that, the house would never get warm the next day.  So the remodeled space at the Peabody house would need a grand fireplace with hearth.  There are lots of fireplaces in Memphis’s midtown, but they are usually non-functional and they do not have raised hearths.

The basic goals were defined:  an open floor plan, a large kitchen island set four feet out from the wall of counters to allow multiple cooks at a time with no bumping butts, a grand fireplace with raised hearth, and a space for the TV.  That last should be embarrassing.  But it’s important to us, and hey, it’s mostly just us these days, so we can do what we want and in the evenings that involves watching news on the channel we prefer, sports, or binging on our favorite TV series.

Our first step was to hire a designer to draft the new space.  His job was to draft the existing spaceIMG_5040 and the new space with a layout to accomplish our objectives.  He wouldn’t have anything to say about the structure and whether or not the walls we wanted to come down were structural; his only job was to help us determine if the space could support a floor plan that would meet our objectives.  Our first meeting with him was on November 7, after arriving in Memphis on October 17.  It clearly did not take long for us to think seriously about remodeling.  We had our first look at his floor plan on January 3.  That first look was disconcerting.  He had placed the kitchen on the exact opposite side of the space than we had envisioned.  It took us a bit of time, but after thought and consideration and a few minor revisions, we agreed that his vision was superior to our initial thought, and before the end of January, we had a set of plansIMG_5041 that we could provide to contractors for bidding our project.

We interviewed 6 contractors: two we never heard from again, one said the project was well beyond his capability, one put his finger in the air and gave us a high number which was what he said it would take for him to touch it and that we should expect it to go higher, and two gave us detailed quotes.  By mid-March, from those last two, we selected our contractor, Capital Construction (and specifically Gage Morefield), and a project start date of April 16, a Monday.  It was necessary for us to go out that far to get beyond any AirBnB reservations for the main Peabody house bedrooms.  After that, we would shut those listings down until the project was complete.  We would continue to rent the Pool House during the remodel.

We had a date certain, and we began to make plans.  This time around, it is only Hubby and I who live in the house, and we intend to continue to live in it during the entirety of this project.  The air conditioner for the first floor would be dismantled early on, but the air conditioner for the second and third floors would remain functional.  We would lose our kitchen the first demo day, but we could move the fridge into the formal dining room (which is the pool table room for us), and move our five foot square table into the front of the living room and it would hold our temporary kitchen – Berkey water filter, coffee maker, toaster oven, silverware, paper plates, plastic cups, some spices and storage containers, paper towels, wine bottle opener and that’s about it.  We moved our couch toward the front of the house, moved the TV down in front of our formal fireplace in the living room (the one without a raised hearth) opposite the couch.  We covered the pool table with plastic, and planned on covering the TV, the couch, and the temporary kitchen with plastic each day to protect them from demo dust and later sheetrock dust.  We would turn our master bathroom claw foot bathtub into a dishwashing station for the few dishes we planned on using (coffee cups, wine glasses, silverware).   Everything else on the main floor (the kitchen, pantry, laundry room, sitting room, living room) would go upstairs and be covered with plastic, or would go into storage.

We would be ready for demo day on April 16.


Did we Make the Right Choice?



Mt Bachelor from Sunriver, Oregon

We returned to Oregon last week for our best family friends’ daughter’s wedding.  It was an event that made me teary, just in its anticipation. One of the hard things about leaving Oregon was moving away from these friends, more “family” than friends, family we’ve chosen.

Traveling to Sunriver, Oregon, from Memphis, Tennessee, took us the whole of 2 days.  We traveled with our Memphian daughter and her 2 toddlers plus our Chihuahua, Tif, flying away from Memphis late afternoon and arriving Portland, Oregon, at midnight (2 a.m. Memphis time), after a 3-hour layover in Denver.  I made those travel arrangements thinking Hubby and I would be traveling alone. Who in their right mind would travel that way with toddlers?

Day 2, we awoke in an airport hotel, secured our rental mini van and headed south to Eugene to collect our Central America traveling daughter.  Seeing, touching, smelling, holding this daughter in my arms, was the first blissful reunion of this trip.  She left Oregon before we did last fall, so we hadn’t shared the same space for 8 months, too long a time.  We lunched in Eugene, with our son who would be traveling to Sunriver late the next day with his brother who lives in Corvallis, at Cornbread Cafe  (vegan comfort food – everything we ordered was delicious).

We left Eugene mid afternoon and arrived in Sunriver by 6 p.m.  The babies, and their exhausted mom, were ready for a quiet evening and bed, and the rest of us made our way to “Toad Hall,” the Sunriver home of the friends we had traveled to see.   The space was filled with friends and family of the soon to be bride and groom.  We hovered near the entry stairs into the main gathering space, just listening and observing, and for me, getting teary.  It was coming home, entering a warm happy loving space that opened its arms and took us in, as did the friends we departed from months ago and returned to in this moment.  Sometime, not too much later, the oldest daughter and sister of the bride, embraced me and earnestly asked, “Did you make the right choice?” I didn’t understand at first what she meant, so she clarified, “Moving to Memphis?”  The question took me aback, partly because I haven’t considered it, at least not seriously.  The question won’t let me go, either, not during the entirety of our visit, and not since our return to Memphis, at midnight last night.  So what does one do with a question like that?  One blogs about it!

As with most major decisions we make in life, our choice to move to Memphis has downsides.  Leaving our home of 30 years, on the banks of the beautiful Willamette River, with our wake boarding boat, jet skis, kayaks, paddle board, all docked in our backyard, the home where all 5 of our children grew up and where we lived when 4 of them were born, still wrenches.  Our traveling daughter is staying in Oregon for at least a few weeks, and we dropped her at a friend’s house on our way to the airport yesterday.  That parting was wrenching; she would have been staying “home,” had she still had a home in Oregon.  This daughter has most vocally expressed her opinion, not a good one, of our choice to move away.

We left our 2 youngest, our sons, at school in Oregon.  One a junior at University of Oregon in Eugene, and one a freshman at Oregon State University in Corvallis; they don’t have their “home” to go to when the dorms shut down, or when they just need a visit with Mom and Dad.

We moved away from the friends who are family, the friends with whom we raised our children (a combined total of 12!), the friends with whom we established family traditions: Super Bowl fun runs, together with trophies and elicit bloody mary’s; Christmas cookies; Christmas Day and plum pudding; adult dinners out (from which adult children are still excluded); Duck football Saturday; Sunriver, Sunriver, Sunriver.  The stories that go with each of these things will make us laugh together for all our days.


Two hardy friends reunited and undeterred by Sunriver rain

And, oh my goddess, Oregon is beautiful:  the mountains, the fresh clean air, the misty rain, the green/blue rivers and lakes, the mountains, the mountains, the mountains.

All those things, I think, are the worst of the downsides.

What are the upsides? The first and overriding upside is one of pragmatism:  Hubby’s job of 30+ years ended, unexpectedly and abruptly.  We were not prepared to actually “retire” in the true sense of the word.  We had 2 options, Hubby seeks a new job at the age of 57 (at the time) and while recovering from the shock and rejection of his career loss, or we drastically change things up:  sell everything and move to a place where we can turn our housing dollars into income producing property that will support us for the next 10 years or so until we can actually retire and start using the money we’ve set aside for that purpose. Our initial idea was to search for a location with low property values (especially compared to Portland, Oregon), but before we could even “Google” that search, we looked at each other and said, “Memphis!”  Our oldest daughter and her husband and their 2 daughters (currently, our only 2 grandchildren) live in Memphis, and we knew property values there are unbelievably low, comparatively, and we knew that given the right properties, Memphis could be a great AirBnB income producing opportunity.  Those things drove our decision:  we could support ourselves without touching our retirement funds and without Hubby having to get a J-O-B, and we could be grandparents, the way we wanted to be (i.e. not long distance).

So, we did it.  We planned it, executed it, and never looked back. That is, not until the question was posed:  Did we make the right choice?  Pragmatically, the answer is clearly yes.  Living is a matter of economics, largely, though our Central America traveling daughter would never agree, but she is braver than we.  We need financial security to be content and worry free. Perhaps it is our nature.  Perhaps it is our age.

We have discovered other upsides to our choice.  It has been an adventure, from start to finish.  Purging our accumulation of “stuff,” including our water toys, our 2ndcar, and untold items from drawers and basements and garages, loading what was left (or at least what would fit, and then purging some more) into the U-Haul and driving ourselves plus everything we still owned, including our English Bulldog, Pumba, and our Chihuahua, Tif, from Aurora, Oregon, to Memphis, Tennessee, in mid October last year.  Over the course of 5 days, we left the Willamette valley in the fall, drove into winter in eastern Oregon and Wyoming, found fall again in Colorado, and came to Memphis in what seemed the end of summer.  It was therapeutic to make that drive, and feel the distance between the place we left and the place where we arrived.

The distance in miles between our 3 youngest kiddos and us has increased, while the distance to our 2 oldest girls, our 2 grandkids, and my mom has shortened.  We have the means to return to Oregon, and have done so twice this spring with another trip planned in early June.  From Memphis, we drove to surprise our daughter in Columbus, Ohio, on her first half marathon route.  We will drive to eastern Tennessee to visit my mom over Memorial Day and our daughter will drive from Columbus to meet us there – it will be her first trip to this home of her grandma.

Another upside: thunderstorms!  I’m finishing up this message sitting outside on one of our covered porches and a clap of thunder just sounded that made me jump. It is May in Memphis, and it seems that means a thunderstorm nearly every day, along with the kind of rain that comes down in buckets and turns our streets into rivers.  We just got caught at our local farmer’s market in a downpour of raindrops that seemed tablespoon size; we ran to our car to discover we had left the sunroof open – again!  We have to stop doing that; it is no easy task to dry the car out with the wet heat here.

We admire how our friends who are family have managed to remain in Oregon within a few hours drive to each of their 7 children and grandchildren.  That seems rare and is an amazing accomplishment.  Our family has spread across and even out of our country, and we have moved changing up whom we are near to and whom we are farther from. This is not the last move in our future; we want the adventure of seeking, finding, learning a new place again, maybe in about 10 years.  My mom, who is 18 years older than I am, says she could easily undertake that kind of adventure at her age, so in 10 years, we should be ready to pack up again, leave Memphis behind, and travel to, well, someplace else.

Our answer to the question is, “Yes, Nikki, we made the right choice for us at this time, though it’s not likely our final choice, it is our best for now choice.”  Hubby and I are amazed at how well our plan for Memphis has manifested in reality.  We are secure in our financial future and neither of us is tethered to a J-O-B, though we do clean a few more toilets and make a few more beds that we had planned.  It is a blessing that Memphis has turned out better than we planned, and it is a blessing that we can return to friends, family, fresh air, and the mountains in Oregon.  It is, definitely, all good!

My Long Arm is Alive in Memphis

IMG_4850In preparation for our move from Oregon to Memphis, Tennessee, last fall, we hired a crew from Boersma’s in McMinnville, Oregon, to take my Innova long arm apart, safely crate it, allow us to watch the whole process and take notes and photos with a plan to put it back together ourselves in Memphis.

The first problem we encountered was an anticipated one – the 12 foot long table with light bar on top would not fit in my 3rd floor sewing studio.  The ceiling height would not accommodate the light bar.  Rather than re-engineer the light structure, we decided to have it live at the end of our master bedroom.  We didn’t want to take up a different room and disrupt our AirBnB plan, and who needs a master bedroom as big as our new one is anyway?

Hubby took on the project of rebuilding my precious machine – and over several days it was accomplished.  It works, it is alive!  I have not quilted a single quilt on it in Memphis, but that is another story.

Block 17 of 365 – 21 pieces in a little 3 inch block

This little baby will finish at 3 inches square and it is comprised of 4 different fabrics and 21 individual pieces!  This should certainly qualify as a miniature!


The block for January 17 has a lot more pieces than the first 16 blocks of Kathryn Kerr’s 365 Blocks in a Year Challenge.  I’m grateful that I got caught up a couple of days ago.  Yesterday and today I did the current block right after my yoga practice.  Though all of these blocks are to read “dark,” I really want the piecing to show.  I’m pleased with this little guy.

I noticed when I compared my completed block to Kathryn’s block picture, that I reversed the orientation of the lower left and upper right blocks, exactly as was shown in step 3 of her instructions.  I thought, as I was meticulously laid out the pieces according to her step 3 instructions, that it was not how I would have done it.  I should have listened to my intuition.  However, I am not redoing it!

I am Sewing – a Block a Day for 365 Days!

My long-arm quilting machine is still in pieces. We have decided on a location – the end of our master bedroom, which is way bigger than we need to sleep in. That has freed me up to use the 3rd floor in our new Memphis home as a sewing studio (without the long-arm). This level of our home is height challenged – it wouldn’t accommodate the long-arm without reconfiguring the light bar, a prospect that filled me with dread. Without the long-arm in this room, I could set up my 4 x 8 foot table, which is 100 percent cutting surface. Bliss.

It makes me sweetly happy to go to this floor to do yoga (no one, whether Hubby or AirBnB guests, can surprise me) and leave my yoga mat in the middle of the floor when I finish, or to sew. Yes, I am sewing!

For a few years I have enjoyed several “crochet-along” projects. I’ve completed several crocheted blankets in this fashion. Feeling a hankering to sew, but not motivated to go searching among my still packed away unfinished projects, I started searching to see if I could find any “quilt-along” projects. I found one that piqued my interest and it is daunting: one quilt block a day for 365 days. The blocks are small; they finish at 3 inches square. That appeals to me, too.  I’ve wanted to tackle a miniature quilt; I’m not sure whether 3-inch blocks qualify as miniature, but they satisfy me right now.  Kathryn Kerr created this project, and it is available here.

My first 15 blocks look like this.

First 15

These blocks are all supposed to read “dark.” I decided to use some complimentary color, while trying to keep the value dark, so that the intricate piecing would not be lost. I’ve actually only sewn twice so far. The blocks are pretty tiny and each one completes quickly, so it works fine to do several in one sitting. I am again thankful for my 3rd floor sewing studio, where I can leave the project on the table and quickly pick up where I left off the last time.

I’m using my stash for this project. Yes, that is the stash that I seriously considered leaving in Oregon as we struggled to fit all our belongings into the moving truck. Years ago I organized my fabric into 24 color families; it will be easy to pull from my fabric bins to create this scrappy quilt (I hope).

Will my long-arm ever see the light of day?  Yes, for sure.  But it will wait until someone other than me can help Hubby carry the heavy pieces from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor where it will live.  I look forward to quilting on that long-arm for myself, rather than for customers, for now.  Although, as 2017 proved, you never really know.